Parliamentary leaders on Tuesday proposed reducing the number of seats held by Punjab in the National Assembly by nine.

A meeting of parliamentary leaders was called after the federal cabinet referred the delimitation bill to the parliament on Oct 25. During the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the issue of an increase in the number of legislatures’ seats was thoroughly discussed. The bill was then referred to the parliament for debate and discussion.

During Tuesday's meeting, which was chaired by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, parliamentary leaders proposed a redistribution of seats among provinces without increasing or decreasing the total number of seats in the assembly.

While the number of seats held by Punjab was reduced by nine ─ seven general and two reserved seats ─ in the proposal, the number of seats held by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were increased by five and three, respectively.

It was proposed that KP be awarded four more general seats and one more reserved seat. Balochistan, on the other hand, would hold two more general seats and one more reserved seat.

It was also proposed that the number of seats held by the federal capital be increased by one. The number of seats held by Sindh would not change under the proposals.

Tuesday's meeting was attended by Leader of the Opposition in the NA Khursheed Shah, Jamaat-i-Islami parliamentary leader in National Assembly Sahibzada Tariqullah and Awami National Party leader Haji Ghulam Bilour, among other leaders of parliamentary parties.

During the meeting, PPP and MQM-P said that if their reservations regarding the provisional census results were not addressed, they would approach the courts for legal recourse.

The two parties have voiced reservations regarding the preliminary results of the census, which are serving as the basis of the current delimitation exercise.

The final results of the census are expected to be announced sometime in April next year, which will not allow the Election Commission of Pakistan enough time to carry out the delimitation process ahead of the next elections ─ due to be held in May.

The ECP has already warned the government that time is running out for fresh delimitation of constituencies ahead of the 2018 elections. The ECP has also warned that legality of the general elections without delimitation could be questioned.

Sadiq will chair another meeting of parliamentary leaders on Wednesday to discuss the provisional results of the census at the tehsil level. Officials from the ECP and the Census Commission of Pakistan are expected to brief the meeting.